Like Duck to Water, thats how I have taken to life :). This blog is the saga of love and adventures of a small duck in a large water body called LIFE....

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Smokkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkies


I know, I know! Its been 2 weeks since I posted. I am sorry, have been a bit busy. Got my L1 and have started working from home. Thats not a very good excuse, but have to have an excuse ;-) To compensate, I am posting a hugggggggggggge post :)

Today's exactly 2 months since I came to U.S. So how do I feel? Hmm, my feelings keep fluctuating between excitement, normality and homesickness like a pendulum. Excitement when I travel to new places, normality when I am resigned to whats happening and homesickness whenever I think of mom, dad or Darsh. But one thing I have to mention. Sri has been a major support throughout. Dunno what I would have done if he wasn't here. The irony is that if he wouldn't have been here, I certainly wouldn't have been here ;-) So, the crib goes on.....

Anyways, the long post I promised you doesn't deal with my homesickness, but with a trip we had been to on the long weekend from 2nd July to 4th July 2005. The Great Smoky Mountains or The Smokies as they call it.

"Ridge upon ridge of endless forest straddle the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the largest protected areas in the Eastern United States. World renowned for the diversity of its plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, and the depth and integrity of its wilderness sanctuary, the park attracts over nine million visitors each year. Once a part of the Cherokee homeland, the Smokies today are a hiker's paradise with over 800 miles of trails."

Don't worry, I didn't break my head over the above. Just stole it from one of the websites blatantly :-D And I couldn't have described it any better :) We left Lexington on Friday the 1st July evening to avoid early travel on saturday. After a night's stay in a motel, on 2nd July morning, we drove to Cades Cove, one of the famous spots of the park. Cades Cove has a 11-mile loop road which you can either drive through, bicycle or walk in. 11-mile seemed like a bit too much for cycling, so we decided to drive. There were deer visible from the road. Sri even joked that the authorities must have scattered some food to lure the deer ;-) I added that they must have smeared honey on the grass (Remember? A hunter does it in some panchatantra or jataka tale) :-D Anyways, it was good to see those, since those were the only wild-life we got to see.

We stopped at a place on the loop to trek to a waterfall called Abrams Falls. The trek was 5 mile round trip. It was a beautiful trek with flowering trees all round and water streams flowing side-by-side of the trail. I was surprised to see the many people hiking like us. That's just another thing I like about the people here. So many enjoy such nature-related activities. In the end, the trek was worth it. This is Abrams Falls:




We spent a long time just lingering around and simply dipping our legs in the water. There were people jumping into the water from the top of the waterfall, swimming in the water etcetera. But the water was really cold and we simply enjoyed the scene. I took a lot of photos on the way and again on the way back :) We also stopped at a stream to have our packed lunch of croissants and jam :) And I tell you, the ambience was wayyyy better than any restaurant's :))

We again stopped at another point in Cades Cove, for our next trek. This hike was a 3 mile roundtrip hike to Laurel Falls. The road was very narrow but tarred, unlike the natural muddy road to Abrams. Hence there were kids hiking and also prams with babies being hiked by their parents {rolls her eyes} :-D. The Laurel Falls wasn't as full as Abrams but it was beautiful in its own way:




The viewing point was sort of a bridge over the falls. So on one side the water was falling towards us, and on the other side falling away from us. It was not very peaceful due to the crowds around, nevertheless we enjoyed it. While returning, Sri had a pleasant surprise, what with one of his friends turning out from nowhere. Talk about coincidences!! :-D There were many Indians walking towards us, but Sri didn't notice them. As soon as we passed, we heard a voice call out "Rama!" and we turned back. It was Sri's friend and senior Joy. We returned to our car after exchanging pleasantries and phone numbers, totally amused at the fateful meeting :) Later went back to our hotel in a place called Kodak (the name always made me smile thinking about "Kodak" moments :-D) and decided we were done for the day. An 8 mile trek is something, you know. We rested and had dinner at an Indian restaurant called Kashmir in Knoxville. The food was really good :))

Next day we were off again on a drive to Cherokee Orchard road for another trek to yet another falls. The Smokies are full of waterfalls and we actually visited only 3 of them. Well, the rest, some other time perhaps :) The falls we trekked to on 3rd July 2005 was called the Rainbow falls and it was a round trip trek of 6 miles. This trek was totally forest and there were very less number of people as it was a winding rocky trek. It was cool and very lovely. I took loads and loads of photos. Half-way on the trek, it started raining!! Sri opened the umbrella he got for us, but I ran without it ;-) By the time we reached the falls, we both were half-wet :-D The fall was a bit thin, but extremely calm and quiet. Here it is:




There were no people and it was as if we were alone in the forest with a waterfall and rain for company. Sounds like a very romantic scene from a movie right? But we were more worried about catching a cold and a fever, rather than romance, sad but true :-D The rain got heavy and we had to stand there under the single umbrella for what seemed like hours. Here's a snap of us:




We knew we'd get late if we stayed there. So, though it was raining, we started on our way back. Thankfully the rain stopped after a while. We stopped at a small stream and washed all the dirt of ourselves, rested for a while and enjoyed the peace around us. Every direction was worth being photographed and made into a desktop wallpaper (shows typical S/W engineer thinking :-D).

After reaching our car, we decided no more treks for the day (There was another falls called Grotto falls nearby, but we were too tired for the 3 mile round trip trek). We drove on the very famous scenic route of the Smokies. Thats the route from Gatlinburg in Tennesse state to Cherokee in North Carolina. The route was full of tunnels, streams on the road-side, trees and scenic mountain views. We also stopped at the border of TN and NC, which is a place called Newfoundland gap. It is at an altitude of more than 3000 feet and has a viewing tower where people stop for a breather. There lots of people and surprisingly many of them were Indians :)

We drove on to Cherokee, where we stopped and had ice-creams, lemonades and french-fries. Cherokee is a beautiful place with a stream flowing throughout the town. People enjoy rubber float rides in the stream. It was in all very pleasant and we strolled for sometime before returning to our car and drving back to Gatlinburg. Took a pizza from Pizza hut back with us to our hotel and it was really good :) That was dinner and we were done for the day :)

Next day i.e on 4th July 2005, we had no more energy for treks and set out to Gatlinburg. The city is famous for its amusement parks and aerial lifts. Our first visit was to a ropeway which took us to the top of a hill. Next we visited Ripley's Moving theater 4D which had 2 4D shows and both were lots of fun. Later we went to Ripley's Haunted adventure which was pretty scary what with cobwebs falling on you in complete darkness and a man with a bloody electric saw coming after you :-D We knew it wasn't real, yet really enjoyed it.

Our next stop was Ober Gatlinburg which is a ski resort in winter. It had an aerial tramway all the way up to a mountain. From there there were ski lifts to higher altitudes :-D Why stop when you can be bit more close to the sky? :-D We went on that too, upto Mt. Harrison which had an altitude of more than 3500 feet :) It was so cool out there, the view around us was breath-taking :) Later we got down from the ski lift and enjoyed some of the rides on Ober Gatlinburg. One was the alpine slide, which is a water-less slide. It has a small car kind of thing which you can accelarate/break. I raced down against Sri and it was really fun of the best kind. We laughed like little kids all the way down :) Later we also enjoyed a water slide on a rubber float :) Had lunch of so-called patti-less veg burgers (:-p) and french-fries with salsa and cheese :-D That was good :) Then took the aerial tramway back to get down. It started raining here and heres us in the tram with the rain, wind and the view :)




Our last stop was the Ripley's shark aquarium. It is, I feel, the best designed, planned and maintained aquarium I've ever seen. So many fishes and sea-animals, artificial waterfalls and huge glass enclsures. It also has a tunnel-shaped viewer where I felt as if the water was around me and above me. There were sharks swimming around:




There were also Sting rays, Jelly fish, crabs etc. I touched 3 sting rays in the "Touch-a-sting-ray-bay" :-D The jelly fish reminded me of the "Finding Nemo" movie where the 2 fish go jumping "boing, boing" on jelly fish tops :-D I enjoyed it all :) For more photos of the Smokies, click on any of the photos :) Limited offer, as usual ;-)

That was it. We left Smokies towards our home satisfied with one of the most wonderful trips I have ever been on :) They say, you have to visit the Smokies every season, as the view is different each time. We finished our summer trip. If we are here for the autumn and winter, the Smokies will surely get a visit from us again. There's still lots more to see and a long way to go....

2 Comments:


Sriram retorted...

I thought Newfound gap was at an altitude of 5000+ ft ..


Deeps retorted...

nahi yaar, some 3500 something..